You’d be hard-pressed today to find a school that doesn’t consider safety a high priority. We go to great lengths to keep those inside school walls safe, running drills and spreading awareness in case of threat. There’s one kind of threat schools often overlook when it comes to safety, however, and that’s cyber attack.

Cybersecurity isn’t a new concern by any means—it’s just one that’s taken many schools quite a long time to develop a safety plan. With recent ransomware attacks like WannaCry and Petya, the potential theft and leakage of data, particularly confidential information, should be on the minds of all school leaders.

If your school hasn’t thought about cybersecurity as a growing concern, it’s time to learn what the threats are and what you should be doing to keep your school, and its data, protected. To start, here are the top five cybersecurity threats schools face and how you should prepare:

1. Link Security

From ransomware to phishing and other types of security breaches, direct contact is the number one way that you can create a vulnerability in your system. Those who commit these online crimes are finding smarter and sneakier ways to infiltrate your data every day. Sometimes the attack can even come as an email from a legitimate sender, or appear to be a perfectly normal message on social media. The goal is usually to get you to click on a link.

Solution: Make sure the security preferences for your email account(s) are set up to filter spamming, phishing and executable files that aren’t recognized. There are also many email scanners on the market that can restrict macro script files and authenticate inbound mail.

2. Unknown Devices

The top 5 #cybersecurity concerns for #schools, and how to prevent them

It’s not just the devices themselves you have to worry about–you also need to protect your network as a whole. While precautions must be taken with the devices your school owns, you also need to consider the devices students and staff bring with them that access your network.

Solution: Your IT system should include a solution that tracks all devices, including those not owned by your school, that enter the network.

3. Out of Date Technology

Contrary to popular misconception, user interaction isn’t always required for a cyber attack to be launched. The WannaCry attack targeted hundreds of computers all with the same security vulnerability on their Windows operating systems. While newer versions of Windows now come with that weakness patched, the victims were all users who hadn’t updated to the latest OS or downloaded the necessary patch.

Solution: Again, an IT solution that tracks all devices is important, but one that can also check on software upgrades and block access to certain apps is ideal.

(Next page: 2 more common cybersecurity threats and possible solutions)

About the Author:

Earl D. Laing is a senior education strategist for Dude Solutions, a Cary, N.C.-based operations management software company serving the education, government, healthcare, and manufacturing industries.


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